2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Steady play leads the way

KAPALUA – The Johnson and Johnson show set for today’s final pairing in the third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is a contrast in styles.

Zach Johnson, the leader by three shots at 13 under par following a 7-under 66 on Saturday at the Kapalua Plantation Course, is 24th in the 30-man field in driving distance with an average of 270.6 yards. Dustin Johnson, the defending champion and of no relation, is first at 302.1.

Zach Johnson is 24-for-30 in fairways hit. Dustin Johnson is 18-for-30 – next-to-last in the field.

“I played solid,” Zach Johnson said. “Got off to an OK start, hit every green.”

Dustin Johnson is 26 under par in his last five rounds at Kapalua, including a 66 on Saturday that left him tied for second with Matt Kuchar (68) and Jordan Spieth (70).

“This golf course sets up well for me,” Dustin Johnson said. “I can reach all the par-5s and there’s a few short holes where you can drive it up close to the green. So, if I chip it and putt it well, I’m going to shoot a good score pretty much every time.”

Dustin Johnson has seven birdies in eight par-5 holes played. Zach Johnson has an eagle and a birdie on the par-5s, but lamented the fact that he was even par on them Saturday.

“As a competitor, one of my goals every year is those par-5s and I’m a little bitter about that right now,” Zach Johnson said, drawing laughter in the media room. “I’m a little upset about that, but I’ll get over it. I mean, I played 7 under on the rest of the holes.”

Dustin Johnson was second on the PGA Tour in driving distance last year with an average of 305.3 yards, while Zach Johnson was 153rd at 278.8.

“I like watching him hit driver,” Zach Johnson said of Dustin Johnson. “He’s not a whole lot different than a lot of the other guys I play with because they all hit it a lot further than me it seems like. I don’t know, Dustin does not intimidate me.”

Zach Johnson said he counts on his driver to set up his short game.

“Driver probably isn’t the most important club here just because of the reading of the grain and the putts – clearly the putter is the most important (club),” he said. “But getting the ball in the fairway, for me, so I can have spin on it is a premium here. Hitting fairways is a premium here for me. I have a lot of wedges.”

Dustin Johnson hit a 379-yard drive on the 420-yard, par-4 12th hole Saturday and had the longest drive on the 18th, at 353.

“Played a lot better than I did yesterday, made a couple putts, hit some better pitch shots,” Dustin Johnson said. “Yesterday I missed three out of the first four greens. I hit a good shot on two, went just over the back, but three and four, I had 80 yards or something and missed the green. It was just pathetic. But today I played a lot better and I hit the ball really well.”

The wind was strong enough on Saturday that Kuchar backed off a putt on No. 16 as a gust had his pants whipping. He then sank the eight-footer for birdie.

Zach Johnson decided to step away from a five-foot par putt on 16 in heavy wind – he also went on to make the shot.

Spieth had just one birdie on the back nine after carding five on the back in the first round. He nearly drove the 305-yard par-4 14th on Saturday before duffing his pitch, which rolled right back to feet. Spieth then pitched onto the green and made a 10-foot bender for par.

“Today probably (it was) three or four holes that maybe made a difference, but all in all, good position going into the weekend,” Spieth said. “I had probably four or five less chances today than I did yesterday, so it’s just a couple swings here and there that just weren’t my best. But still happy with the round, was able to grind it out and shoot 3 under and stay in it.”

The front nine played to an average of 34.8 on Saturday, just as Friday, but the back nine average was more than a stroke higher than in the first round, at 36.8.

Zach Johnson’s bogey-free round was just the third of the tournament.

“I never really was staring bogey in the face,” he said. “A couple decent saves, but chips that I felt like I could be aggressive with, so nothing – just pretty solid, relative to yesterday, which was kind of up and down.”

Dustin Johnson said the sore neck that kept him out of Thursday’s pro-am has improved.

“It’s going away,” he said. “I just tweaked a muscle a little bit, so resting and it’s good to go.”

Spieth summed things up when he looked ahead to the final 36 holes.

“Bogeys drop you off on a course like this when there’s so many birdies around,” he said. “It’s all about patience and it’s all about hitting the greens and once you start getting on a little streak and gaining confidence, you can start firing towards the pins.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com



Today * At Kapalua Plantation Course

10:07 a.m.-John Merrick, Derek Ernst

10:18 a.m.-D.A. Points, Brian Gay

10:29 a.m.-Jonas Blixt, Jimmy Walker

10:40 a.m.-Scott Brown, Boo Weekley

10:51 a.m.-Russell Henley, Bill Haas

11:02 a.m.-Martin Laird, Billy Horschel

11:13 a.m.-Patrick Reed, Sang-Moon Bae

11:24 a.m.-Chris Kirk, Woody Austin

11:35 a.m.-Gary Woodland, Harris English

11:46 a.m.-Jason Dufner, Adam Scott

11:57 a.m.-Brandt Snedeker, Ken Duke

12:08 p.m.-Ryan Moore, Kevin Streelman

12:19 p.m.-Webb Simpson, Michael Thompson

12:30 p.m.-Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth

12:41 p.m.-Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson